In a previous blog, I mentioned a student who failed an art class, simply because he never showed up – and because he never showed up, he never did any work. Failure to show up goes far beyond education, however. Many, many years ago, I was a lifeguard at an outdoor pool, and in the last week of August, we got a snowstorm that dumped half a foot of snow on everything. I figured that with all that snow, there was no reason to go to work. I didn’t… and I almost got fired because my supervisor thought it would be a good time to do all sorts of maintenance. While I didn’t get fired, I wasn’t hired back for the next summer.
The often praised and also often criticized actor/director Woody Allen once observed something to the effect that ninety percent of success is just showing up. I think he got the percentages wrong, but the idea is simple: If you’re not on the job, or working at what you do, you’re not going to be successful. And if you’re there, but your mind isn’t, then you’re also not there, and sooner or later, you’ll fail… or worse, you’ll do something careless and someone will be hurt, lose money, get angry at you, or even die.
Unhappily, there are many ways not to show up, besides not being physically present. The latest version of this is to be present, but to keep most of your attention on your smartphone so that you won’t miss any texts or tweets… or to be driving with your attention on whomever you’re talking to… or walking and doing the same. If it’s in class or a meeting, well… you might flunk or get fired, and if you’re walking or driving in traffic, you might get killed… or kill someone else.
Even if you’re at seated at a desk at work, comparatively safe physically, do you really think your peers or supervisor don’t know? Think again. When I was in charge of a department with some fifty odd employees, I had a very good idea who was really “there,” and who wasn’t. Most good bosses know. I made a habit of dropping in on those who had a tendency to space out, and then I’d ask about their latest project or assignment.
If the job is that bad, why are you there? If you’re there because you need the money, then you’d better be “there” if you want to keep getting paid. That sort of behavior on the job might just lead to a bad recommendation or reference, unless, of course, your boss just wants you to leave, but betting on that is akin to occupational Russian roulette.
Along the way, in the writing business, I’ve come across a handful of authors and would-be authors who really weren’t “there,” but it was amusing to see how soon they snapped back into reality when a big-name author or publisher appeared. Most of them didn’t make it, either.